Belinda'toilet

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Testo

Belinda’s Toilet
In the dressing table scene of “Rape of the Lock” at the end of Canto I, lines 121-148, the main character, Belinda, has just awoken from a peaceful slumber. She slides out of bed and positions herself in front of her dressing table and mirror (modernly called a “vanity”) to get ready for her day. Standing before the mirror, she watches herself be transformed from the pale-faced sleeping beauty to a vibrant and radiant young woman through the help of her cosmetics, her maid, and the Sylphs. Poetic technique as employed by Pope in this scene lends credibility to the very beauty ritual he is describing. Pope’s attention to the seemingly simple act of putting on makeup conveys the authority of this sacred rite.
The opening two lines of this passage, “And now, unveiled, the Toilet stands displayed,/Each Silver vase in mystic Order laid” (121-122) set the initial tone of mystery and anticipation through the use of inverted syntax and words such as “unveiled” and “mystic.” The overlying tone of epic dignity causes the entire passage to read like a giant hyperbole. Pope depicts this scene as something that is happening to Belinda through “Cosmetic Powers,” (124) rather than something she is doing. Participation in this “event” is exemplified by carefully situated personification in line 137, “Here Files of Pins extend their shining Rows”. This effective imagery allows the reader to see the pins scrambling for lineup, eager to be at Belinda’s disposal.
Pope simply lists a few of the items on Belinda’s table in line 138, “Puffs, Powders, Patches, Bibles, Billet-doux.” The sophisticated reader can see that much more lies right below the surface of this powerful line. Most noticeably are the items Pope chooses to list, and their order. Pope touches on the frivolity of beautiful women by putting the Bible right next to the love letters. A little bit deeper into the line reveals Pope’s use of plosive sounds to amplify the “list” quality. The repetition of meter, the three consecutive trochees, gives the line an emphatic rhythm, emphasizing the ritualistic importance of the listed items.
Finally, in the closing line, Pope illuminates the underlying principle of the beauty ritual he has just described. Pope writes, “And Betty’s praised for Labours not her own” (148). The introduction of praise at the end of the passage ties in the subtle, yet evident, parallel theme of the societal necessity of beauty. The beautiful Belinda begins another day, living up to the expectations of beauty, as society shows its appreciation through praise.
The Mock-Heroic Poem
Mock-heroic poetry is one of the most characteristic genres of English neoclassicism in the eighteenth century. It includes not only masterpieces such as Pope’s The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad but also numerous minor poems. Derived from French models, the mock-heroic became something more than merely a parody of the serious epic: relieved of its gravity, it was nevertheless a legitimate and independent form of epic poetry. This book is the first comprehensive study of the theory, the conventions and the history of the mock-heroic genre. In the first part, Ulrich Broich shows how mock-heroic poetry combines the characteristics of various discourses - epic, comedy, parody, satire and occasional poetry. The “polyphonic” genre which emerges from this analysis stands in ironic contrast to the neoclassical ideal of decorum in a harmonious unity of discourse and form. The second part traces the history of mock-heroic poetry: its foreign sources, its beginnings in England, the “rivalry” with other forms of comic narrative, and its decline in the second half of the eighteenth century.
The “Rape of the Lock” is a poem in which every element of the contemporary scene reminds the reader of some image from epic tradition; the transformations are numerous, striking and rich with moral implications.
The verse form of “The Rape of the Lock” is the heroic couplet which consists of rhymed pairs of iambic pentameter lines.

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